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Luke Glendening Usage: a Halloween Scary Story

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Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

I know, I know, it's another Luke Glendening post. Glendening the player AND his usage have been lightning rods for fan opinion, but this past weekend was the worst I've seen his usage all season, and I'm starting to get concerned. Jeff Blashill indicated that he wanted to use Glendening against opponent's top lines more often, and Glendening's line spent the bulk of Friday and Saturday night chasing around the Kyle Turris line in his own zone. The Turris line came away with 3 even strength goals while Glendening's line was out there, and it could have easily been 4 or 5. Saturday's game was especially ridiculous as Glendening had Halloween-approved scary shift after scary shift while the rest of the team was excellent. Let's take a look at a sampling of not-so-fun stats from Saturday's game.

Bullets of Statistical Death

  • Luke Glendening led ALL FORWARDS in ice time. He was on the ice for 18:41, beating Zetterberg's 2nd place 17:52. Even the most die-hard Glendening fan would look at that and go "eh... that seems like a questionable idea." But hey, maybe it was because of lots of time spent killing penalties?
  • NOPE. Luke Glendening also led ALL FORWARDS in even-strength ice time with 15:39, a full 38 seconds longer than 2nd place Zetterberg. But okay, let's give some benefit of the doubt. Maybe Glendening was just having an uncharacteristically good night?
  • NOPE. At even-strength Ottawa directed 59 shots at the net. Luke Glendening was on the ice for 32(!!!) of them. That's horrendous. This is so bad that I'm using two more bullet points to drive home how bad it got.
  • At even-strength when Luke Glendening was watching from the bench, Detroit out-attempted Ottawa 31-27 despite leading the entire game. That's a great performance!
  • At even-strength when Luke Glendening was playing, Ottawa out-attempted Detroit 32-10. That's a horrible performance no matter what's on the scoreboard.
To make things worse, it's not as if Glendening was getting shelled but magically preventing goals either. Kyle Turris scored twice against Glendening's line in the weekend series (one of which involved him badly burning Glendening), and Mark Stone's goal came a few seconds after Glendening lost a puck battle that resulted in Ottawa keeping the puck in the zone.

To make it clear that this isn't limited to just a couple games, let's use a chart. This is a chart of every defenseman's share of possession with and without The Glendening Effect this season. These samples are all small, so I'll use time on ice together to give context. These numbers are all 5v5 only.

Player CF% w/ 41 CF% w/o 41 TOI Together
Ericsson 27.5% 46.4% 47:15
Kronwall 37.7% 50.0% 39:27
Kindl 46.3% 52.4% 36:35
DeKeyser 30.8% 47.4% 32:51
Smith 57.1% 50% 28:34
Quincey 25.0% 49.3% 28:01
Green 34.5% 48.5% 21:18
Marchenko 43.5% 44.4% 15:26

The main takeaway from this is if Glendening's season was a slasher flick, Brendan Smith is the guy who would inexplicably survive to the end despite having "HE GON DIE" written all over him. I say slasher because the rest of this is a bloodbath.

I wouldn't put tons of stock in the raw numbers themselves, but the differences here are stark enough to show yet another trend, and that's that the Red Wings are still spending tons and tons of time in their own zone while Glendening is on the ice. Detroit could get away with this novelty last year because despite varying success from Glendening because they were a top-10 possession team regardless. Now they sit 28th in the league in score-adjusted share of shot-attempts.

It's also not the case that Glendening is just playing the toughest competition every night anymore aside from this past weekend. The following skaters have faced tougher competition, going from toughest to easiest: Abdelkader, Zetterberg, Ericsson, Kronwall, Quincey, Larkin, Nyquist, Green. It was really only this past weekend that Glendening faced the toughest competition, and boy did it not go well.

Why Negative after a Win?

This is a question I had to ask myself because Saturday night's game was great and loaded with positives. Detroit looked much better for the first two periods before spending a lot of time understandably protecting their huge lead in the 3rd. The reason I'm concerned is that this weekend was almost entirely fueled by special teams - Ottawa out-scored Detroit 6-3 at even-strength this weekend. Great special teams play is nice, but you can't count on the power play to win you games like that.

The reality is that Blashill's usage of Glendening didn't matter Saturday night, but it's pretty clear to me that if he continues to use Glendening this way, it will matter in quite a few games. Detroit's possession has completely collapsed this year which is worrying enough, so Blashill doesn't have the luxury of watching Glendening's line chasing the puck in its own zone all game long. Detroit's forward corps is pretty deep despite the injuries, so I'd really like to see a shift back to playing teams straight-up. This team has Zetterberg, Larkin, Sheahan, Helm, and eventually Datsyuk and Richards as options at center, and all of them are excellent defenders. Let Glendening's line play against the other team's scrubs and let some guy named Henrik Zetterberg (and Datsyuk when he returns) beat the other team's best players like he has so many times in his career. Detroit can't afford to keep playing in its own zone this often.

Statistics courtesy of hockeystats.ca, war-on-ice.com, and stats.hockeyanalysis.com.